Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories has stolen the top Billboard spot by a mile this week with over 320,000 sales. Darius Rucker, The National, and 30 Seconds To Mars also landed in the top five Billboard spots. Check out a report with sales figures from Billboard below.
Opening of Act One sets the stage, so to speak, for the feel of this beloved Gilbert and Sullivan operetta. A pirate ship appearing onstage in three pieces pushed and pulled about by bumbling, well-meaning pirates immediately gives the audience insight into the merry & playful world of Gilbert & Sullivan. The colors are bold and geometric like a children’s book and pop making the small but suitable stage come alive.
Pirates of Penzance is considered one of the most successful operettas by famous Victorian duo, librettist William Gilbert and composer Arthur Sullivan. First premiered in New York on New Year’s Eve in 1879, the piece is a more whimsical work of standard repertoire, and OTSL does not fail in delivering its fun, satirical, and yet sophisticated qualities to audiences this season.
With a fully equipped and fabulously talented cast, Pirates makes the seeming frivolity of patter-sing and puns appear easy and free when in reality it holds all the difficulties of bel canto style performance. Hints of Donizetti musical filigree appear in Soprano Deanna Breiwick’s charming portrayal of young heroine Mabel. Her coloratura entrance to the stage enraptures and assures the audience once again of OTSL’s high quality performers.
Not alone in her fantastic exhibition, Pirate King, Bass, Bradley Smoak all but steals the show with his Johnny Depp-esque swagger about the stage and lilt in his wordy repertoire. The other men on stage hold their own, however; as displayed in Major General Stanley’s “I am the Very Model of a Modern Major General.” This audience favorite, sung by Hugh Russell, shows off amazing control, and the reprise is just as high spirited and, if possible, more astonishing than the first round. Not to be reduced to silly Sullivan patter-sing, Russell presents a great vocal capability in the second act with a more serious selection in the graveyard setting.
Lead, duty-laden Frederic played by Matthew Plenk, woos the young daughters of General Stanley in an attempt to find someone to turn him from his pirate ways after abandoning his indentured servitude to the Pirate King. In his duet with Mabel in which they agree to take each other’s hearts, they are accompanied by underlying counterpoint from the sisters in a masterful tip of the hat to Bach or Zelenka. Here Plenk is able to unleash the beauty of his full lyric tenor voice. A wig or some other aid may have helped in creating a better sense of the young, dashing Victorian man Frederic is intended to be, but this does not detract from the ease with which he approaches some of his higher tessitura portions of music and the control he possesses.
Mezzo Soprano Maria Zifchak returns to the St. Louis stage in a wonderful portrayal of her caricature nursemaid role of Ruth. More of a complicated role than many give it credit for, as Zifchak observed, she showed command and added true hilarity to the performance. In addition to her comedic chops, Chief of Police played by Bass-Baritone Jason Eck adds some real Monty Python style humor to the show accompanied by a band of yellow-bellied Bobbies hesitant to lay down their lives for the General’s daughters.
All in all, the show contains not a single dull moment. A sheer delight, especially if you wish to expose some young-ins to the world of opera. Almost Peter Pan in character, at times, the pirate band is light-hearted and the bevy of young ladies adds not only allure but amusement. A personal favorite piece to look for may be “Hail Poetry,” a truly show-stopping number that removes the audience from the superficiality of the rest of the operetta for a brief moment. The orchestra’s fine musicianship will astound, as always, in thanks to conductor Ryan McAdams. Who knows? You may even wish to attend a second viewing just to catch all those wonderful Gilbert wit you missed the first time. Highly recommended, Pirates of Penzance does not disappoint.
Production Dates: 8pm May 25, 29, & 31
8pm June 6, 12, 14, & 29
7pm June 9
1pm June 22 & 26
Upcoming OTSL Productions:
Commissioned work, Terence Blanchard & Michael Cristofer’s Champion
Ruggero Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci & Puccini’s Il Tabarro
Bedrich Smetana’s The Kiss
Location: Loretto-Hilton Center in the Virginia Jackson Browning Theatre
130 Edgar Road (at Big Bend Boulevard) on the campus of Webster University
Other Links to Consider
St. Louis Post-Dispatch Tabarro & Pagliacci Review: http://www.stltoday.com/entertainment/arts-and-theatre/opera-theatre-s-tabarro-and-pagliacci-tell-two-dark-stories/article_2e1d0a1e-d900-5eae-bf39-de5f5d496eab.html